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National Cathedral replacing Confederate-themed stained glass

A stained-glass window honoring Robert E. Lee at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.
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Washington National Cathedral will replace the windows that formerly depicted Confederate figures with racial justice-themed imagery created by renowned American artist Kerry James Marshall.

A release issued by the National Cathedral Thursday also announced that a poem by Dr. Elizabeth Alexander would replace the stone tablets that once revered the lives of Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, who were pictured in the windows. Both projects are expected to be finished in 2023. 

This project is not just a job – I don’t need the work – or only a piece of art. It’s kind of a calling, and a real honor to be asked,” Marshall said in the Cathedral’s release. “The themes that the Cathedral committee articulated set a great challenge for me as an artist and as a Black American man. The goal is to make truly meaningful additions to an already rich and magnificent institution, to make the changes they have embraced truly worth the effort.”

The Cathedral said the United Daughters of the Confederacy gifted the Cathedral the windows in 1953. In 2015, then-Cathedral Dean Gary Hall called for their removal following a shooting at a historic Black church in Charleston, S.C. that left nine dead. 

The windows were not officially removed until 2017 after violence at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va. Since then, “temporary placeholder” has sat in place of the windows, the Cathedral said. 

The window of Confederate General Robert E. Lee was loaned to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, where it will remain until next year, a release from the Cathedral said on Wednesday.

“Just as the past is never truly past, our work toward a more perfect Union is never truly complete,” the Cathedral’s Dean the Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith said in Wednesday’s release. “By removing these windows, the Cathedral took the first step among many toward telling a more accurate story about who we have been, who we are now, and most importantly who we aspire to be.”

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